The Internet of Things: A Discovery Nightmare

In a meeting this week, Julie Lafargue, who recently joined MBLB as a member, encountered a “smart coffee cup,” touted by its manufacturer asthe leader in temperature control technology” which is “changing the way the world eats and drinks forever.” The cup’s owner proudly described the ability to select the preferred drinking temperature, receive notifications when a preferred temperature has been reached, customize presets for favorite hot drinks, and track caffeine consumption with an Apple Health integration app.

The smart coffee cup is only one of many devices which makes up the “Internet of Things”, which are items embedded with software, sensors, and electronics connected to the internet to create, collect, and transmit data. For litigators and their clients, the Internet of Things presents new forms of electronically stored information to be dealt with in discovery requests and responses.

The data gathered by devices such as Apple SiriGoogle NowAmazon AlexaMicrosoft Cortana, GPS apps, and fitness apps can be very personal. In personal injury lawsuits, both plaintiffs and defendants are seeking discovery of this data to determine a party’s activities before and after an accident or injury.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Her colleague saw his smart coffee cup as the greatest way to drink coffee. As a litigator, she saw it as another discovery nightmare, and left the meeting with the lyrics of Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth playing in her head: “Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep.”

Beware, your coffee cup may be subpoenaed.